Books and Music at the Heart of Independent Publishing

We have four signed copies of Primal Scream’s new album More Light (read Lee Brackstone’s review here) to be won. Just answer the question below and send us your answer by 5th July 2013.

primal scream competition


The Question

Which track on More Light has been remixed by Andrew Weatherall?

  1. 2013
  2. 2014
  3. 2020

And now submit your answer in the form below:

Your Email:

Your Name:

Your Answer:

 

The competition closes on midnight on 5 July 2013. Winners will be picked at random and contacted by email. By entering this competition we’ll also add your name to our Faber Social mailing list but we promise not to bombard you with messages.

 

The past twelve months have seen the return in live and studio form of three bands who, two decades ago, wrote the last chapter in the story of innovation in rock at the fag-end of acid house. The Third Coming of The Stone Roses proved much more lucrative, if less chaotically entertaining, than The Second Coming of 1994. Original line-up restored, with the redoubtable Mani back in the bass seat, the Roses now seem to occupy a place in the collective pop consciousness akin to the Beatles: find fault with their gorgeous oeuvre of perhaps two dozen classic tracks if you dare, but you’re either a scouser or a cynic if you deny their regal place at the top table of British rock. They’re bullet-proof. They’re National Treasures.

For years – twenty-two of them in fact – there had been rumours about the studio return of the Roses avant-psychedelic cousins, My Bloody Valentine. A series of gigs at The Roundhouse three years ago gave little clue as to present creativity or future new direction but we were reminded (48 hours tinitus after the show helped) why they were once classified the chemical weaponry of live rock n roll. And then, as if out of nowhere, the brilliantly, banally titled, MBV arrived earlier this year. It was immediately – with no hesitation, and little dissent – proclaimed a masterpiece just about everywhere. As Kitty Empire in the Guardian said, ‘it picks up more or less where Loveless left off‘, and it seems (and why not?) this was enough for most of us. Only with the closing track, Wonder 2, did My Bloody Valentine suggest what direction future recordings might take. Ironically, Wonder 2 dates back to the mid-90s and Kevin Shields’ love affair with drum n bass; so is about as contemporary as Roll With It. Time present and time past point To Here Knows When

More Light

The final act in this slight return of indie rock aristocracy (Oh how I bet they all love that phrase) is of course, Primal Scream, who this month release their magnificent tenth studio album, More Light. Perhaps the least critically revered of this triumvirate of Baggy Revolutionaries, they are the creative fulcrum and hinge between the Roses and MBV in so many ways. Sonically this is true of a band who, like the Roses, look to underground psych (Gillespie’s legendary record collection) and overground ‘60s rock for inspiration. Equally, like the Valentines, they’re often inclined to sabotage their Paisley-tinged instincts with frantic noise, distortion, reverb and the glorious glide guitar of Kevin Shields.

It seems odd now to think after the dissolution of the Roses and the stasis of the Valentines, Primal Scream were the last men standing of that 1991 vintage during the fallow (let’s be generous) Britpop years. It’s even weirder to think Primal Scream – one of the rock n roll names that like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith had become synonymous with a Bacchanal and Lock Up Your Daughters tabloid hysteria – provided a safe house of sorts for Shields and Mani, in what now looks retrospectively like a supergroup, with the fatty tissue associated with the term, burned away. For half-a-dozen years commencing just before the release of XTRMNTR (one of their two acknowledged masterpieces) they were the most imperious, demented, unpredictable and exciting rock n roll band on the planet. These two performances roughly bookend the period I mean:



With Innes and Shields leading the guitar assault and Mani and Gillespie, in their own distinctive ways, anchoring the performance and sharing the spotlight, Primal Scream were epic, aggressive, chaotic and loud.

So why is their critical capital often held to be lower than their two immediate peers, with whom they share so much DNA? And is Bobby Gillespie, do we think ‘bothered’? If a recent, telling interview on Sabotage Times is to be believed you’d think not. Referring to the title of the new album he says, ‘I guess the world’s a dark place and we could do with more light in. It sounds a bit clichéd, but I don’t know what else to say. I mean I could sit here and pretend to tell you why I thought it was a good title, but everybody seems to like it, so, if anybody doesn’t like it, then fuck ‘em, you know? They can go and eat my shite.’ You can take the boy out of Scotland …

This is the attitude that has always endeared me to Gillespie, and to much of the band’s catalogue over the years. His honesty and his intelligence married to his encyclopedic knowledge and fearlessness, have taken him to places both familiar and experimental on the frontiers of rock, pop, soul, psych, dub, RnB, gospel, house and techno. And when Primal Scream get the blend right, as they do so often on More Light over the course of a coherent and measured 60 minutes, their sound is still uniquely powerful; uniquely them.

More Light concludes a loose trilogy of Primal Scream releases that began in 1991 with Screamadelica and continued through XTRMNTR in 1999. These albums represent the yin yang of the band’s psyche, and there’s an argument to say More Light sits in the middle somewhere. Certainly it is more light than dark – the tripwire psychosis sometimes ventured on the latter album. Superficially, you could split the album between the two opposing poles of the band’s psychedelic spectrum: the lyrics (some of Gillespie’s best for years) recall the frenzied cut-up situationist style of XTRMNTR, while musically, the album settles into a varied, experimental texture that fits the template of Screamadelica. But that would be to radically simplify the thirteen tracks here. The range is the most impressive of any album since Screamadelica; and if at times this means some tracks sound like Primal Scream covering Primal Scream classics (closing track It’s Alright, It’s Ok), then that’s forgivable on an album that attempts so much from Mary Chain pop-punk in Hit Void, to the loping experimental landscape of Sideman.

But the highlights, indisputably, come in a cluster towards the end of the album with a succession of tracks: Turn Each Other Inside Out, Relativity, and Walking with the Beast. The first, Turn Each Other Out, is surely an homage to CAN, a band Gillespie is known to revere. With lyrics cut up and rearranged from the American poet, David Meltzer, it represents one of several collaborations on the album; the others being with Kevin Shields (obviously), Robert Plant (intriguingly), Mark Stewart and Davey Henderson of the Fire Engines. If Turn Each Other Out is the album’s funkiest (in a CAN, not CHIC way) track, then Relativity is its most schizophrenic, with a time and key change half way through which transforms it from a crazed Swastika Eye style diatribe into a 6/8 Smiths-style ballad. It is astonishing. The penultimate song, Walking with the Beast, concludes a golden run, which may in time, bear comparison with Damaged, I’m Comin’ Down and Higher than the Sun for a consecutive run of peerless tracks on a Primal Scream album. It’s the track destined to soundtrack heartbreak on the album; ultimately, I suppose, taking you back to that Mary Chain classic, Some Candy Talking, only this time the spectre in the song is suicide: ‘There goes another man/ His future in his hands/ Doesn’t know he’s going down/ He’s still laughing as he drowns/ His pain is his disease/ Hurts him everytime he breathes/ Hates himself and everyone/ He’s sucking on a loaded gun.’

There’s a sense that More Light exists at a tipping point in the culture. After the hedonistic abandon of Loaded, Come Together and Don’t Fight it Feel It came the barbed wire pre-millennial jitters of Kill All Hippies and the colossal MBV Arkestra on XTRMNTR. These albums bookend the ‘90s perfectly, articulating the shift from psychedelics to uppers, the disappointing inertia of club culture (at the end of that decade) and the imminent return of garage rock in the form of The Strokes and White Stripes. XTRMNTR is a nasty album but it is exhilarating in its nastiness, and purposeful, or ‘useful’, as Julian Cope would have it. More Light initially seems to pick up its narrative path, at least lyrically, from XTRMNTR, but mellows and the music follows. It has a narrative like all great albums should: highs, lows, opaque avenues and ringing moments of clarity. It is an angry album, but more disillusioned in its observations, tone and texture, than revolutionary. It is a call to arms: but not the AK47 and napalm one might associate with XTRMNTR. Gillespie’s weapon of choice on More Light is the education one might associate with an autodidact: ‘Read your Marx and Engels’, he says.

This is the most radical and enjoyable Primal Scream album for over ten years and it perhaps shows the band entering a new, more experimental stage. With psychedelia again all the rage (Tame Impala, Temples, Toy, Hookworms, Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs), More Light should soundtrack the summer ahead. There’s enough light and shade here to cater for sun and/or showers: a very British psychedelia indeed.


Win a Signed Copy of More Light

We have four signed copies of More Light to be won – click here for your chance to win one.

At first glance my two events at this year’s Hay festival might appear to be particularly disparate – a verse drama and a non-fiction sports book; Afghanistan and Wales; the lives of young squaddies in Pink Mist, the lives of wealthy rugby players in Calon. And to be honest, in becoming Artist in Residence for the Welsh Rugby Union, difference is what I was after. Having worked in quick succession on two projects about the Afghan war I was looking forward to entering the ‘lighter’ world of a sport and a team in which I’d found enjoyment since the age of seven.

In researching and writing Calon, however, I discovered many of its concerns were surprisingly similar to those of Pink Mist. Rugby players and soldiers alike are young men shaped by masculine monocultures of unbroken boyhoods, adult professions offering seductive extensions of childhood games. At 21 or 22 the player and soldier will have life experiences most of us can’t imagine. And yet, at the same time, their experience of life will be limited, their days chaperoned, their weeks scheduled. It’s only when they leave the barracks or the playing field for good that they must face the full scope of personal choice in all it’s terrifying dimensions.

It was in this leaving that the similarities between the two professions became most apparent. In both soldiering and rugby, exactly because of their physical natures, the young men who do them often occupy surprisingly fragile lives, never knowing if the apex of their careers have, in fact, already been lived. Injury or wounding leaves them suddenly bereft, plunged into a life of apparent aftermath. One day you are ‘with’, the next you are ‘without’. Fears of assimilation into ‘normal life’ loom large, as do questions about how you will replace all you’ve lost? The excitement, the sense of purpose and, perhaps most tellingly, that bond you shared with those for whom, much more than country or family, you’d fought or played for in the first place.

Since their publications another shared territory of Calon and Pink Mist has become evident; their aspirations to bridge distance. In both books I’ve tried to use literary techniques to enable a reader to see through the eyes of those whose bodies fuel war and rugby; to see the ‘soldier’ and the ‘player’ as a person. What I hadn’t expected, however, was that this bridging of distance would extend beyond reader and subject to the make up of the readerships themselves. Calon, I’ve discovered, has found favour with rugby fans who’d never usually pick up a work of literary non-fiction, including, thanks to some enterprising teachers, teenage boys and reluctant readers in schools. Pink Mist meanwhile, a 13,000 word verse drama has been featured in ‘Soldier’ magazine and attracted its first praise not from a literary critic, but from a recently discharged rifleman.

For me, this engagement with new audiences has become the most significant shared quality of Calon and Pink Mist. Our society is more fragmented than we are and the empathetic quantum-leaps of literature is one of the best ways of illustrating this; that despite what we are told or how we are treated, we are more alike than not. At a time when access to the arts is being restricted rather than grown, when we are closing libraries rather than opening them, Calon and Pink Mist have reminded me of just how urgent and necessary is the reaching out to new audiences. In the second branch of the Welsh myth series, The Mabinogion, the giant Bendegidfran says ‘he who is a leader; let him be a bridge.’ In a divided society access to libraries, books, plays are essential bridges, so let’s hope our own leaders listen to his advice and help to build our bridges before we’ve burnt them.

Pink Mist and Calon are published by Faber and are available now.

Last night I went to see Jay Bulger’s documentary film about the rock ‘n’ roll legend, Ginger Baker. It is an instant classic, and will surely end up sitting on my shelves alongside the likes of Dig!, Some Kind of Monster and Anvil as a portrait of a monstrous and compelling rock ‘n’ roll ego.


‘I’ve got more regrets than you’d ever care to believe: hundreds of them.’

— Ginger Baker

Baker is riveting and appalling in his unpredictability, not only through the course of his chaotic life, but in the documentary himself. Uncompromising is not the word. At times the uncomfortable intensity, style and intimacy of the filming reminded me of Louis Theroux’s now classic encounter with Jimmy Savile – not least because Bulger also lives with his subject. But there’s a warmth, a generosity and a reflectiveness about Baker that keeps you onside. And that’s before we consider his musicianship. Next to this man his perhaps more famous peers are poor relations. The scenes of his playing in the late 60s with Cream, Blind Faith and in Nigeria in the ’70s with the imperious Fela Kuti are breathtaking, the genius pouring out of him in every beat.

Here’s a man who makes Bonham, Moon and Viv Prince the 3 Crown Loons of the Rock n Roll Drumkit, destined to die young and become myths before their fourth decades were done, look like apprentices – on the drums, and in the pharmaceutical stakes. But for all the bad behaviour, the relentless poor career choices, the musical highs and lows, its the personal story of Beware of Mr Baker that rings loudest in my ears this morning. A warrior and a man of uncompromising vision and truly god-given talent, Ginger Baker seems to have spent his life in pursuit and retreat at once – though from what and to what, I am not sure. He’s a consummate self-sabotager, or as Julian Cope might have it, ‘an intuitive non-career mover’.

God Bless You, Mr Baker. And thanks Jay Bulger, for an unflinching and sensitive film, destined to take its place in the handful of rock n roll films one could really claim greatness for.

www.bewareofmrbaker.com

 

For one night only bestselling author of The Damned Utd David Peace will be in conversation with Dan Davies, about his brilliant new novel on Bill Shankly Red or Dead. Red or Dead will be published by Faber on 15 August 2013, Faber, £20 HB.

socialredordead_A6_WEB


Red or Dead is the story of the rise of Liverpool Football Club and Bill Shankly, perhaps the first truly great football manager of the modern age. And the story of the retirement of Bill Shankly. Of one man and his work. And of the man after that work. A man in two halves. Home and away. Red or dead.

David Peace’s only London event will be upstairs at The Lexington, N1 and will include a reading and interview with David plus two live music sets.

Singer and songwriter James Walsh, formerly frontman of Starsailor, will play a solo set. James Walsh’s EP ‘Time is Nigh’ is out now. The second set will be by author, musician, songwriter and former Auteur Luke Haines, who will be playing from his new album ‘Rock and Roll Animals’.


Buy Your Tickets Online

Faber Social in association with Esquire presents David Peace
Wednesday 21 August 2013, 7pm, The Lexington, London N1 9JB

Online event registration for Faber Social presents David Peace, with live music from James Walsh and Luke Haines powered by Eventbrite

 

So to the second Faber Crime Social – breaking all the rules by being on the first Tuesday of the month rather than the (bank holiday) Monday – which opened with Stav Sherez’s first public reading from his fantastically spooky, Eleven Days. The second of his Carrigan & Miller series, it publishes today and follows the acclaimed A Dark Redemption, just longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year . Fingers crossed for Stav.

Stav Sherez

Next up, was the winner of that prize from 2010, R.J. Ellory, who delivered the barnstorming opening chapter of his as-yet-untitled novel, due next summer. Coming on like the bastard love child of Stephen King’s 1922 and one of Annie Proulx’s Bad Season stories, it promises to be another typically brilliant slow-burn thriller.

After a short reading from her latest bestseller, The Carrier, Sophie Hannah also delved into the novel she’s currently working on, The Telling Error. Told largely through the columns of a superbly over-opinionated newspaper columnist (are there any other kind?), fixated on a controversy in the world of crime writing, this is guaranteed to be a blackly funny highlight of next year.

Also appearing, was Tom Benn, a young noir writer whose Manchester set Henry Bane novels are stunningly good. Reading, sounding, and looking a little like a young David Peace, Benn is a serious talent to watch (and a voice clearly missing from Granta’s recent Best of British List). The other discovery of the evening was Russ Litten, whose second novel, Swear Down, has just published. Reading one of the novel’s great monologues – as a young gang member recounts being taken to a betting shop by a seventy year old white guy – it was a perfect taster of an ingenious novel (and Russ won everyone over when he prefaced his reading by taking a photograph of the audience – proof to his wife that he was missing her birthday not because of a torrid affair but rather for a, almost, excusable reason).

To end the night, SJ Watson – Faber Academy alumni and author of the massive international bestseller Before I Go to Sleep – read a brilliantly funny and unsettling new story. For those of you who weren’t there, i can’t tell you anything about the story itself (it was, he promised, strictly a one-off – never to be published or read again), but suffice to say more than a few people were checking there drinks when he finished…

The Faber Social presents Crime will return in 2014.

 

A stellar-line up of artists including Beck, Jarvis Cocker, Franz Ferdinand, Beth Orton, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Joan As Police Woman, Conor J O’Brien (Villagers), Michael Kiwanuka, The Staves, The Guillemots, Pictish Trail and James Yorkston bring Beck’s critically acclaimed catalogue of sheet music to life.

In association with The Barbican and Glenn Max Events, Faber Social brings together an eclectic mix of high profile musicians for a very special night of live music, in which they perform Beck Hansen’s unique publishing project Song Reader.

The line-up includes:

Beck himself
Pulp frontman, Faber Editor-At-Large and solo artist Jarvis Cocker
Glasgow’s finest Franz Ferdinand
Singer-songwriter Beth Orton
French icon Charlotte Gainsbourg
Joan Wasser aka Joan As Police Woman
Villagers front man Conor J O’Brien
Acoustic indie trio The Staves
Indie mavericks The Guillemots
Soul stylist Michael Kiwanuka
Singer-songwriters James Yorkston and The Pictish Trail

With more guests to be announced. At the heart of the evening will be a specially-assembled house band featuring Seb Rochford (drums), Tom Herbert (bass), Dave Okumu (guitar), with music direction by Ed Harcourt and David Coulter.

Beck has always been one of music’s great pioneers and Song Reader is an experiment in what an album might look like in the digital age: 20 songs, including two instrumentals, existing only as a book of individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded. The songs are meant to come to life in a new golden age of home performance, leaving the listener, essentially, to be the performer. Current interpretations can be found here.


Song Reader

Ten years in the making, Faber published Song Reader at the end of last year, and it comes complete with full-colour, heyday-of-home-play-inspired art for each song and a lavishly produced hardcover carrying case (and, where necessary, ukulele notation). Beautifully illustrated by Marcel Dzama, Leanne Shapton, Josh Cochran, Jessica Hische and others, Song Reader was designed by Beck with the help of McSweeney’s Publishing Company in San Francisco.

Beck says: “These songs are meant to be pulled apart and reshaped. The idea of them being played by choirs, brass bands, string ensembles, anything outside of traditional rock-band constructs — it’s interesting because it’s outside of where my songs normally exist. I thought a lot about making these songs playable and approachable, but still musically interesting. I think some of the best covers will re-imagine the chord structure, take liberties with the melodies, the phrasing, even the lyrics themselves. There are no rules in interpretation.”

In the lead up to, and at the event, The Barbican and Faber Social will celebrate the life of Beck’s Song Reader so far, with an exhibition of the artwork and a presentation of a selection of some the very best amateur interpretations of the songs.


Barbican in association with Faber Social and Glenn Max Events presents Beck: Song Reader Live, Thursday 4 July 2013, 7.30pm, Barbican Hall. Tickets Now on Sale.

Tickets are on sale now from the Barbican website.

In the meantime, take a look at our Song Reader event at Rough Trade in December 2012, featuring Carl Barat, Ed Harcourt, Steve Mason, Stealing Sheep and Leila Moss.

 

Faber Social is proud to present TELLING STORIES – an evening with Tim Burgess plus special guests including Mark Collins (The Charlatans), John Doran (The Quietus) and Jack Underwood (Poet, Faber and O Genesis) with more to be confirmed. This intimate one-off event at The Social, London will combine readings and music to celebrate the publication of the paperback of Telling Stories (Penguin, 4 July 2013, £9.99), the eye-wateringly honest memoir by the front man of The Charlatans. The new paperback edition contains a whole new chapter with brand new material that takes the story up to 2013.

Faber Social presents Telling Stories is on Monday 8 July, doors 7pm at The Social, 5 Little Portland Street, London W1W 7JD.


Tickets Now on Sale

Tickets are now on sale via Eventbrite.

There are only a limited number of tickets available for this event. There are two ticket types available, entrance only and entrance including a copy of the book, both on a first-come, first-served basis. When they’re gone, they’re gone. Good luck!

Telling Stories poster Use this one


Praise for Telling Stories:

‘Clear, honest. An unusually frank and well-written rock memoir.’ Will Hodgkinson, The Times

‘Written with the stylish flow of a novel – light and dark, hilarious and melancholic.’ Emma Forrest

‘Eye-watering. Burgess writes candidly and with charm about Madchester, Britpop and beyond.’ Independent

‘The Charlatans’ frontman recalls the heyday of Britpop and Madchester with endearing exuberance. He’s unflinchingly honest about the bad times but also peppers his story with anecdotal nuggets about the pitfalls of rock ‘n’ roll excess.’ Metro

I have been an admirer of the work of Ian F. Svenonius ever since meeting him and his first band, The Nation Of Ulysses *, in a Memphis recording studio in 1992. His latest group is called Chain And The Gang and Music’s Not For Everyone is named after a song by said combo …

Volume 1 was a series of radio shows (nine I seem to remember) recorded for XOYO Radio and now probably lost in the ether somewhere. Volume 2 will be a series of compilations recorded exclusively for The Faber Social website.

* I once took two members of this band to an acid house in Bracknell. But that’s another story for another day.


Welcome to Music’s Not For Everyone [Volume 2. Episode 1.].

“Music’s not for everyone
Music is for the few, for the brave
Don’t try to explain it to them though
It doesn’t matter what you say
They’ll never understand

Just sneak away to that hole
Where the music makes its stand

Ludwig Van Beethoven is not for everyone
Shirley Ellis is not for everyone
Helen Shapiro is not for everyone
Bo Diddley is not for everyone
Bobby Fuller is not for everyone
[et cetera]”

Chain And The Gang, Music’s Not For Everyone